The trailblazing comic improviser Jonathan Winters, who died Thursday at age 87, was a seminal influence on scores of comedians and the person Robin Williams credits as his mentor.
Winters’ high energy, unpredictable and often surreal comic riffs included an array of characters, reenactments of movie scenes and pointed, quick-morphing sound effects that he often produced on the spot.
Take, for example, his 1964 appearance on “The Jack Paar Program.” In order to illustrate Winters’ genius for creating comedy out of thin air, Paar gave him a simple wooden stick. “Do something with the stick” Paar said, and in what’s now a classic bit, Winters morphed from wayward fisherman to tepid circus ringmaster with a whip, to highbrow flute player.
– From the L.A. Times Obituary